Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Imagine this: you have carefully worked in your garden for weeks. The sun shines, the rain falls, and everything grows. Finally, your hard work is rewarded. You have an abundant crop and it is more than you can possibly use. It might be zucchini, it might be green beans, it might be tomatoes, or it might be almost anything. You have worked hard to grow it and you don't want to see it wasted. What do you do? You give it away! Your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors all get to enjoy the bounty of your garden. Gardeners love to share. It is a strong gardening tradition and I suspect that most of us have given or received. It is a great thing.
Unfortunately, while our gardens have been growing, many of our neighbors are going through tough times. Many are unable to find work or are working less and money is in short supply. More people turn to the area food shelves to help feed their family. Food shelf demand is up dramatically, and donations to food shelves are having a hard time keeping up. Wouldn't it be great if we could share our garden goodness with the food shelves in our area? Our gardens would be helping to provide some much needed nutrition to local families who need the help. The good news is that we can, and should, be sharing with food shelves.
To be helpful to our local food shelf we need to understand how they work. Food shelves are mostly staffed and managed by volunteers and supported by churches. They have a schedule of when they are open to distribute food. The days and times that they operate vary. They also have limited storage space and may have no refrigerated space to keep garden produce. Usually they love to get fresh garden produce. It is a very good nutritional supplement to the boxed and canned food that is generally available. But, because of the nature of how they operate, we will need to deliver our garden produce when they will be able to use it. A phone call to the food shelf to work out the details is a good idea. There are often food drives organized by church, school or community groups which support the local food shelves. Why not organize a garden produce drive to support the food shelf? It would be a great summer project at a time when the food is really needed.
Mr. Potato Head is trying to do his part, too. He is organizing the Stearns County Master Gardeners who are joining forces with the "Plant a Row for the Hungry" program. This is a nation-wide effort which encourages gardeners to donate their surplus produce to local food banks, soup kitchens, and service organizations to help feed America's hungry.
Remember, our gardens are really solar powered food making systems. Use what your garden produces wisely, and share what you can't use yourself. We'll all be better off! Keep things growing!
If you have gardening questions or suggestions for Mr. Potato Head please e-mail him at
Mr. Potato Head is Stearns County Master Gardener and Kimball resident Rick Ellis.